Thursday, February 28, 2013

Jason goes to Cinequest--Day 2

Two movies to start the first "full" day of the festival in style. First with Laughs, and then with Thrills.

First, the laughs with I AM A DIRECTOR, a delightful and hilarious mockumentary from Puerto Rico, following the adventures of Carlos (Carlos Rivera Marchand) as he tries to make his Hollywood-style movie in Puerto Rico. Along to help him is his friend and producer Joa (Joa Tous). Y'know, everyone uses their own name in the movie, so I don't have to keep crediting them. Even Jacobo Morales (Puerto Rico's highest regarded filmmaker and the only one to make a film nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Picture) shows up as himself giving Carlos advice. That advice--to not worry about "Hollywood style" and just make a film with a good story--falls on totally deaf ears. In fact, Carlos has no idea what his movie is about, and he'll get around to writing the script soon. He just knows he wants it to look like THE MATRIX and it has to be in English--all the best movies are in English (for the record, 90% of this movie is in Spanish.) Well, without giving too much away, what his movie (and this movie) is all about at the heart is his relationship with Joa. That might be a little spoiler-y, but it's pretty clear early on that they are (or should be) a little more than friends. But there are some very funny twists and turns along the way, and stick through the credits for some extra laughs.

I AM A DIRECTOR plays again tonight--Thursday, February 28th at 9:30 pm and Monday, March 4th at 4:00 pm.

This also played with the short film PEACE, from Cinequest's Picture the Possibilities project. A  movie about kids in East Palo Alto who've lived with violence their whole life and an inspirational poem about peace. Very nice movie, but thematically a little mismatched with a comedy.

Then I sauntered over to the California for the Chinese action flick AN INACCURATE MEMOIR. If you weren't there (and judging by the sparse crowd, too many of you weren't there) you missed a heaping helping of awesome drizzled in pure awesome-sauce. It was introduced as Tarantino-esque (and director Yang Shupeng did say he dreams of making movies as good at Tarantino's), but I saw it as more influenced by the same combination of Westerns and Hong Kong action flicks that Tarantino draws inspiration from (i.e., less of a direct Tarantino descendant, but definitely sharing common ancestors with him.) In any case, it opens with a voice over about a failed attack on the Japanese in an occupied city (I want to say Taiping, but I'm not 100% sure of that.) We then transition to a daring and successful jailbreak (of their leader, Fang) by a team of bandits. Soon the bandits kidnap a man named Gao, who refuses to write a ransom letter and is almost killed. But instead, he wins the heart of the Fang's sister and soon enough becomes part of the gang. And, eventually, convinces them to use their skills for good--not just robbing people but attacking the Japanese. Exciting action, well crafted characters, themes of loyalty, brotherhood, love, and revenge. All the good things you want from great movies like this.

AN INACCURATE MEMOIR plays again today--Thursday, February 28th at 4:00 pm and Thursday, March 7th at 9:45 pm.

Oh, and according to the program guide it was supposed to play with the short KILL NO EVIL. It didn't, but it's available on Youtube. Pretty cool, and I would totally approve of that playing in front of any movie.

Total Running Time: 194 minutes
My Total Minutes: 317,670

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Jason goes to Cinequest--Opening Night

Woo hoo, the biggest party in all of San Jose started last night, and totally not ready for it. I'll be lucky if I can figure out what I'm seeing today by...tomorrow.

But none of that mattered. I left work early to get down to San Jose 2 hours before the festivities began. I got my press pass, hugged a bunch of my fellow Cinequesters, had a few drinks in the VIP lounge, hugged more Cinequesters, and then headed to the fabulous California Theatre, where I hugged more Cinequesters and soon enough was occupying my traditional front row center seat.

Eventually when everyone else had taken their seats and we'd all been treated to a rousing performance on the mighty Wurlitzer, Halfdan (isn't it about time he was promoted to Threequartersdan?) Hussey came onstage for some brief introductory remarks.

They did, of course, play the festival trailer, which I'm sure I'll be sick of after seeing it a few hundred times over the course of the festival, but for now I'm in love with. My friend Roy and I officially decided that the official audience participation during the trailer is to raise your wand to help create the magic of Cinequest--so go find a nice, wand-like stick everyone (my wand, in keeping with my Cinequesting experience, will probably be a swizzle stick.)

More thanking of sponsors. We officially love them all, but extra special love for the Gold Sponsors, and we got to watch commercials for AT&T U-Verse, HP, and Sony. I know, commercials aren't cool...but I freakin' want a Sony 4K TV!

Then they introduced the Cinequesters. A quick, easy, and fun way to categorize your festival plan. Halfdan did mention that fans had already taken to calling themselves Cinequesters. Now I don't want to make too much of this, because I'm not sure it's actually true, but I've heard a rumor that I have actually been credited with coining the term, "Cinequester." I don't know if that's actually true (that I'm being credited with it, or that the credit is deserved.) It feels like one of those things we started doing without knowing whose idea it was. In any case, the important thing is don't confuse it with "sequester."

Then to celebrate and illustrate the Cinequesters. we got to see some (nearly) naked painted people, courtesy of Trina Merry's Art Alive.  Really beautiful, but is it Burning Man already?! Then we got a yoga demonstration--seriously, is it Burning Man already!?

Oh yeah, and finally we actually saw a movie, too. That would be the Cold War, young woman drama GINGER AND ROSA starring Elle Fanning (as Ginger) and the first feature film role for Alice Englert (as Rosa.) Two girls born in London in the shadow of the atomic bomb. Their mothers were close friends, going into labor at the exact same time. Ginger and Rosa grow up as best friends, sharing a bond nearly as close as twins (I guess as close as could be without being actual sisters.) Director Sally Potter (ORLANDO) does a great job of creating the early '60s, a time when young women wore jeans in the bathtub to custom shrink them, ironed their hair, and actively rebelled against the boring domesticity society expects of them. Of course, although their respective mothers are examples of that boring domestic life, you have to sympathize for them. Rosa's father is absent and so she had to raise her as a single mother. Ginger's even worse. A pompous, self-aggrandizing, philandering pig who glorifies his selfishness by claiming he's taking a moral stand against authority. He was a conscientious objector in the Great War, and went to jail for it--and now thinks refusing to fight against Hitler makes him a moral hero. I so wanted to reach into the screen and punch him in the face. Especially when it's clear that he (as a college professor) is routinely sleeping with his students. And especially when Rosa starts taking an interest in him. Meanwhile, Ginger is becoming politically active in the "ban the bomb" movement and is following the philosophy of Bertrand Russell while trying to become a poet in the mold of T.S. Eliot. But let me go back to Rosa sleeping with Ginger's father--that is not good. All this seething tension comes to a head during the Cuban Missile Crisis, with some explosive results (well, not explosive in that way, but emotionally explosive.)

And with that, Cinequest 2013 is officially open. I was off to the opening night party where I had more drinks, hugged more Cinequesters (not the naked painted people, the fellow fans.) I think at some point I picked Michael "Hambone" Rabehl off the floor. It was a weird night. And here's to the start of a weird and wonderful Cinequest.

Running Time: 90 minutes
My Total Minutes: 317,476

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Jason wades into the Seth MacFarlane Oscar's kerfuffle

Really, I just want to stick my toe in. Normally I'm happy to leave all the commentary to people who actually give a crap, but there's been something missing in all the criticism. On one side, the critics have pointed out that he was sexist, racist, and demeaning. On the other side his defenders want you all to lighten up and learn to take a joke. But what nobody put forward is that--at least in part--he was also trying to make fun of sexism, racism, anti-semitism, etc.

Making a cheap 'all black people look alike to me' joke (as he "confused" Denzel Washington for Eddie Murphy) can be demeaning to black people, but isn't it way more demeaning to the white guy who's too stupid to tell them apart? Maybe...maybe not. Similarly, the "We saw your boobs!" song was demeaning to women, but isn't it also saying men are too stupid and single-minded to look at a woman and care about anything but boobs? (heh, heh, I said "Butt boobs".)

Maybe...maybe not. It depends on what happens next. We can all have a good laugh at "Heh, heh, you have boobs! And I'm so stupid I don't care about anything else!" if afterwards, we walk off into a world where we have equal opportunities and women are valued for much more than their physical appearance. But if the real-life follow-up is more along the lines of "Now I'll go off and dominate the world--especially your chosen industry. You keep being pretty and showing your boobs until I don't care to look at them anymore." Well...that's less appropriate.

Equal opportunity offense is not equally damaging, especially when it's aimed at the exploited. Like the excellent metaphor (and I don't remember where I originally read it) goes, "I offend everyone equally" is a lot like saying, "I punch everyone equally hard, whether they're a prize fighter or a newborn baby." Yeah, but one situation ends with you having a sore fist, the other ends with a dead baby.

Objectively, Hollywood is run by men (even more than it's run by Jews) and so it's absolutely right to be offended by Seth's sexism. So why are so many of my young friends--particularly on Facebook and Twitter--defending him? And why do I know so many young women who defend him? Well, I've twice hinted at it--it's an age thing. Or, I hope, a generational thing--there's a difference.

I think younger people (and I consider myself on the cusp of young) tend to believe that not now, but someday really soon there will be enough equality of the sexes (and races, and religions, etc.) that such jokes will be okay--nobody will get hurt and people will be laughing at the mockery of the neanderthal behavior of yesteryear. Maybe they believe it just because they're naive. They haven't been beaten down by the realities of life--including that sexism, racism, and bigotry of all forms are still alive and well. Maybe it's just an age thing. Or maybe they really know something that the older, uptight generation doesn't know. Maybe the verbal barbs have no power to hurt them because they really are the first generation that has this bigotry thing licked. Maybe it's a generational thing.

And that's my optimistic(-ish) take on it. I have much more pessimistic opinions on the young generation, but I'll keep those to myself for now.

Jason goes to Bad Movie Night and watches ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER

So I started out watching the Oscars at the Roxie. Then I remembered buying, sharing, and drinking waaaayyy too much champagne. Then somehow I ended up at the Dark Room watching ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER. Which was dumb of me, because I already paid good money to see it.

This is simply the worst thing to happen to Lincoln in a theater, ever. Which is a joke I've overused, so I'm officially retiring it.

Total Running Time: 105 minutes
My Total Minutes: 317,386

Jason watches a full day of Joe Swanberg films

Well, I only made it to one day of the big Joe Swanberg weekend at the Roxie. Friday I was simply too tired, I couldn't drag myself up to the Roxie again. And Sunday, I was drinking way too much champagne at the Roxie's Oscar party and then snoring through most of ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER at Bad Movie Night. But Saturday I went all out for a Swanberg-fest (although I skipped out on the last movie because I had to catch BART home.)

First up was LOL, which I had actually seen at Indiefest back in 2007. Let's see what I said then...
Then it was back to the Victoria for "LOL", by Joe Swanberg ("Kissing on the Mouth" from last year's Indiefest). Joe's out in front of a new wave of filmmakers based on real, contemporary, naturalistic acting (often improvised by non-actors). It's more slice-of-life than slice-of-cake, to use the old Hitchcock line, and it has taken me a bit of effort to warm up to it, but now I totally dig it and "LOL" is a great use of the technique for humor. It follows three couples, specifically from the male perspective. One is in a traditional relationship (Swanberg himself) but he cares (or pretends to care) more about his computer than his girlfriend. One is in a long-distance relationship, but treats his girlfriend like crap-even complaining when she sends him sexy photos of herself that they're not dirty enough to turn him on. And the third is in an imaginary relationship with an internet porn star, and takes his imaginary band (he actually makes some pretty cool music from footage of people making random noises with their faces) on an imaginary tour just to try and visit her in St. Louis. Basically, it's about communication technology and how stupid, selfish guys are using it to destroy rather than further their own communication skills. One of the most brilliant scenes is with Joe and his friend (the one in the long-distance relationship) sitting on the couch next to each other IM'ing each other about Joe's girlfriend, who's sitting right in front of them. Brilliant and hilarious, it had me LOLing (that's Laughing Out Loud for those of you not up on the lingo)
Wow, I hope my writing has improved since then. But really, that does sum up the film pretty well. And feeling obligated to explain that LOL means Laughing Out Loud...that's kind of a time warp. And that's really the interesting thing about watching this movie now. Back in 2007, it was pretty extreme satire about how technology that is supposed to keep us connected actually separates us. Now...that satire is real life (well, except that all cell phones connect to the Internet now. Calling someone on your cell phone and asking them to check your e-mail for you is pretty much obsolete now.)

Next up was ALEXANDER THE LAST. Jess Weixler stars as Alex, a young, newly-married actress. While her musician husband is on tour she is in rehearsals for a new play (directed by Jane Adams from ALL THE LIGHT IN THE SKY, who was there to talk about the film alongside Swanberg.) It's a pretty steamy, sexual play and she clearly has...chemistry with her co-star (Barlow Jacobs.) And since he's from out of town, she offers to let him stay at her place. Where he eventually starts having an affair with her sister. Awkward feelings of attraction, guilt, and even jealousy ensue, in an exploration of the complicated love lives of creative people and their responsibility to the audience. In the Q&A afterwards, Swanberg talked about how, having made several films dealing frankly and awkwardly with sexuality, he worries about whether he has any responsibility to his actors--i.e., to not ruin their personal lives--or if his only responsibility is to the audience--i.e., to create the best movie possible. Jane Adams, for her part, was adamant that the only responsibility is to the audience. And, as the audience, (and someone who considers himself very self-centered) I really, really want to agree with that. But...(and this is hard for me to say) my 72 minutes of entertainment is not worth destroying other people's lives (I guess I'd actually be pretty bad at being a megalomaniacal despot.) So I would say that the responsibility to the audience extends to a responsibility to let the audience believe that no actors were actually harmed in the making of your movie--preferably by not actually harming your actors.

By the way, I just remembered that ALEXANDER THE LAST was dedicated to Joe's wife, Kris Swanberg. Kris is more commonly a male name...same with Alex. I only now picked up on this, because sometimes I'm really slow.

Next was a double feature of the thematically paired UNCLE KENT and ALL THE LIGHT IN THE SKY, which I saw and wrote about just a week ago at Indiefest, so I won't bother writing much more about that, but will instead focus on UNCLE KENT. The movie stars Kent Osborne as a children's show writer. And a quick look at his IMDb page shows that this is kinda autobiographical (it also revealed that he starred in HOW TO CHEAT, which I saw at Cinequest last year. I knew he looked familiar for more than his part in ALL THE LIGHT IN THE SKY.) He is unmarried, smokes pot, and goes on Chat Roulette frequently (I don't know--and don't exactly want to know--how autobiographical that is. Although I can confirm from the Q&A that the "dick tricks" scene is based on real life.) He invites his online friend Kate to stay with him while she's in town for a conference. Clearly there's quite a bit of attraction there, although she has a boyfriend back home. But they're adventurous, fun-loving people so they go online and find a girl who's up for a three-way. Or really, she's up for a lesbian experience, in typical Swanbergian awkwardness, Kent ends up being kind of left out. But it's probably for the best, as he has his life path and settling into a committed relationship (at least with her) probably wouldn't fit into that. And that's one of the biggest thematic links between this movie and ALL THE LIGHT IN THE SKY--the idea of a protagonist who has reached a point in his/her life that is well past the age when most of your friends have settled down and started families but that's just not your life. There's a bit of melancholy (the scenes of Kent looking at pictures of himself playing with friends' children gets to me, particularly as someone with a lot of beautiful nieces whom I adore) but also the realization that any potential mate has to be someone amazing enough that you'd be willing to alter the pretty-good life you've built for yourself.

And then I ended the night with some bawdy comedy with AUTOEROTIC, co-directed by Adam Wingard (POP SKULL, A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE.) Four loosely connected vignettes in the sex lives of Chicagoans. First there's the typical guy who is obsessed with his penis being too small. So he takes way too many enlargement pills and they actually work--with frightening and hilarious results. Then there's the frustrated woman who can't stop masturbating (Kate Lynn Shell) and tries some experiments with asphyxiation. If only she had communicated better with her boyfriend (Joe Swanberg), he'd be happy to choke her. Then there's the pregnant wife (Kris Swanberg) who can't orgasm with her husband, but does with her best (female) friend (while he surreptitiously watches and records it on his cell phone.) And finally, Adam Wingard stars as a guy who obsesses over his ex, frequently masturbating to the videos they made together. She has moved no, and wants him to delete those videos. He agrees to, but only in exchange for making a mold of her pussy, resulting in the best hilariously awful fake vagina ever.

And that was how I ended my night. Sick and hilarious. I didn't stick around for THE ZONE or a special unannounced screening of Joe's latest, PRIVACY SETTINGS. Not that I didn't want to, I just had to catch the BART home.

Total Running Time: 369 minutes
My Total Minutes: 317,281

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Jason goes to Indiefest--Closing Night

That's it, it's over. And for the 12th year in a row I can say I've seen...well, if not everything (as I have all previous years) then at least as much as physically possible. I couldn't see FACES IN THE MIRROR opening night because it conflicted with the real opening night film THE WE AND THE I. And I couldn't see BORN INNOCENT because of multiple conflicts. Both these films are available online (BORN INNOCENT is free on Youtube, FACES IN THE MIRROR is available for rent/purchase on multiple services.) So maybe after I rest up a bit I'll watch them, but it won't be the same as the theatrical experience. I suppose I should also say I missed Love Bites: The '80s Power Ballad Sing-A-Long. But I've seen that multiple times in the past so I don't really count that (even if a few videos change every time.)

In any case, here are the last two movies:

First up was IT'S A DISASTER, a hilarious comedy about the end of the world. A couples' brunch starts out innocently--if obnoxiously--enough, as people show up, make small talk, and it's pretty clear early on that everyone is in their own little self-absorbed world. Except maybe Glenn (David Cross) who is the new guy just on his third date with Tracy (Julia Stiles.) As things progress they find that cell phones are out, the TV is out, there's no Internet access,...they don't seem to notice the sirens of emergency vehicles passing by. It's only when the neighbor (director Todd Berger, in a cameo role) shows up in a Hazmat suit and is surprised they haven't heard the news that several dirty bombs were set off in the middle of the city. I.e., World War 3 has started. Well, that shakes them out of their self-absorption...for about a minute. Then they fall back into bickering about who cheated on who, what relationships aren't working and why, etc. They are all such bitchy, unlikable people that it's a joy to watch the world end around them, especially as they descend into more and more craziness. So much fun...this might actually be my favorite film of the festival.

And then I ended on THE OTHER SIDE OF SLEEP. A strange, kind of dream-like (appropriate for the title) story of murder and sleepwalking in a small Irish town. Arlene wakes up in the middle of a forest. That, maybe, is not too unusual, since she's been a sleepwalker all her life. What is unusual is she's next to the corpse of a murdered woman. Did she do it? Who's the man in the forest that saw her? How is this connected to a similar incident that happened to her mother when she was a kid? This is not a thriller, so these questions won't really be answered. Instead, we see her work in a factory, go to the funeral, and be really, really depressed/scared about the whole thing. It had an interesting style and is definitely well made, but I just couldn't get it. I don't know, maybe I was too tired by the end of the festival (check that, I guarantee I was exhausted.) But as one guy in the audience (and I didn't get his name because I'm a lousy journalist) said afterwards, this movie is "selfish." Perfectly said--It asks a lot of the audience, and doesn't necessarily give anything back in return.

And that is how Indiefest 2013 ended. All in all--despite a few clunkers--an excellent program this year.

And one last note, I saw THE OTHER SIDE OF SLEEP instead of the official Closing Night film ALL THE LIGHT IN THE SKY because I had seen that last weekend--my schedule just worked that way. But last night director Joe Swanberg and star Jane Adams were there. And the Roxie is kicking off a weekend of Joe Swanberg films Friday night (oops, that was last night. I guess I should've gotten this posted sooner.) So, depending on my energy level, I might be back for more of that.

Total Running Time: 176 minutes
My Total Minutes: 316,747

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Jason goes to Indiefest--Day 14

The penultimate night. Two more shows, starting with the comedy shorts program Hilarious and Entertaining Adventures.
BEST IF USED BY: Sometimes the grieving process can be tricky. Sometimes it can be a health code violation. But if you've lived well and have friends who love you, they'll violate health codes for your corpse.
LOOKING FOR MR. COFFEE: So I wouldn't know about this because I'm not a coffee drinker. But apparently some people have timers set up to automatically turn on their coffee maker. And sometimes their coffee maker gets really turned on. Like...really turned on...sexually. I mean the coffee makers fuck...oops, spoiler alert.
KEEP THE FIRE: The true story of the genius of Kenny Loggins and the amazing album cover for Keep the Fire. Kids, albums were things we played music on before iTunes. They came in covers with unique artwork on them. Kenny Loggins was...I actually can't explain that.
O.V.N.I. (U.F.O.): Paranoia...or magic...turns an ordinary woman into a 50-foot tall monster who destroys Paris. Awesome!
Y2GAY: A man, his wife, and his best friend hide out in his bunker as the latest catastrophe hits Australia--the legalization of gay marriage.
THE STRANGE WORLD OF MAX X. - OFFICE PAPERWORK: Max does paperwork all day, until he realizes the paper has a more fulfilling life than he does.
BORN TO DANCE THIS WAY: The adventures of Joo Si, the fabulous, sassy, overweight dancer who is destined to become part of the 4 Play long as he nails the audition.
ANTOINE ET LES HÉROS (ANTOINE AND THE HEROES): Antoine is torn between a Jim Kelly karate flick and an Angela Steele horror movie. Cinema obsession, martial arts, zombies, a beheading, a talking bunny rabbit...this movie has it all. Except for a satisfying ending. [SPOILER ALERT!!!] I can't believe he gives up on movies and starts talking to girls at the end. What a disappointment! [END SPOILER.]

And then I saw the feature film, 28 HOTEL ROOMS, although I must have dozed off for bits of it, because I only counted 24 of them. In any case, the majority I stayed awake for was pretty darn good. An unnamed man (or named during one of the bits when I wasn't fully awake) meets an unnamed woman while they're both traveling. He's a novelist, she's an accountant. He's in a relationship, she's married. That doesn't stop them from sleeping together, though. And it doesn't stop them from organizing trysts all over the country. At least, I assume it's all over the country. It's in different hotel rooms (and I'll assume there were 28 of them. I trust the filmmaker's math more than my own) but that's all we see--never any establishing shots indicating the city. Which is pretty familiar for business travelers who never see more of a city than the airport and hotel. And the hotel room is this little oasis of candor and privacy in a strange city, which makes it the perfect setting for revealing intimate moments. Anyway, over the course of their 6-month relationship we get to see 28 of these unguarded moments. Sometimes funny, sometimes sexy (well, almost always sexy), sometimes tense and dramatic--like when her husband shows up for a little getaway vacation. This scene is one of the few moments that focuses on the reality that what they're doing is actually pretty horrible. And it's a bit of unpleasant reality that is necessary. But for the most part, it's an intimate look at an evolving relationship, anchored by a fantastic and fearless performance by the two leads.

Total Running Time: 166 minutes
My Total Minutes: 316,737

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Jason goes to Indiefest--Day 13

Two more programs last night (Tuesday) starting with the shorts program Cults, Manholes & Slide Rail Riders, which of course means the local shorts ("local" stretches the Bay Area as far as Scotts Valley.)
KINGMAKER: A music video for Tremor Low, featuring a psychiatrist, a patient, and some very literal inner demons.
THE BEGINNING: Just the cutest, gayest love story ever, as Daniel and Richard in a post-tryst afterglow discuss their shared fears, frustrations, and passions and decide--very intentionally--to fall in love.
BAGGAGE CLAIM: Based on the true case of Winnie Ruth Judd, a somewhat crude animation explores the differing accounts of the terrible murder of her two friends.
THE MUPPETLESS MOVIE: Cashing in on the popularity of the Muppets, Vincent Garuglio presents this trailer for his movie about Kermit and the gang having to raise $50,000 to save their bar--with human actors playing all the Muppet roles (Vincent himself plays Kermit.) Very funny. 
MANHOLE 452: There are 452 manholes on Geary St. Our narrator tells us that as he rides the Geary 38L to an from work every day. He once was the victim of a manhole that blew sky high and landed on his car. His sense of dread and calculating the odds of catastrophes permeates this somewhat meditative, experimental film.
LIFE INTERNAL: Religion and conformity collide with curiosity and dreams, as Gene escapes the Vault--first through the magic of cinema, and then...through more magic of cinema.
SLIDE RAIL SUPERMAN: The adventures of Joe Pizzetti, San Francsico champion of Slide Rail. You know, the competitive sport of sliding down rails on your butt? We follow his training, learn from his "sherpa"  (mostly about the proper pants selection) and face a slide-off with the mysterious Red Hood. Funny, although at  20 minutes it could be trimmed a bit.

And we also--although it wasn't in the program--had an extra screening of the short MY NAME IS YOUR FIRST LOVE from Innocence Bursting program. It holds up to multiple viewings.

And then the centerpiece feature, DAYS OF GRACE (DÍAS DE GRACIA) about Mexico, drug wars, and the World Cup (note to self: find out the ticket lottery for Brazil 2014.) Taking place against the background of 3 consecutive World Cup tournaments, it jumps among them so quickly it's important to know (as I assume all Mexicans and few Americans know) that Korea-Japan hosted in 2002, Germany in 2006, and South Africa in 2010. That is typically the cue that the film has crossed into a different timeline. Drug gangs, cops (both corrupt and not), family, and mostly futile attempts to escape the violence rule the days. As, of course, does soccer (one of the best moments is in 2006, when a kidnapped man asks about the Presidential election, "Who won?" and the kidnapper answers the score of the game...and in fact doesn't know the results of the election.) But even with my ability to know the timeline based on what games were playing, I found it pretty impossible to follow the story. Just too many characters and too many twists to follow. I found myself too often just remembering the games, thinking of where I was when USA eliminated Mexico in 2002, or when France eliminated Brazil in 2006, or when Zidane head-butted that guy in the 2006 final, or when Spain won it all in 2010. Great memories, but I think I was supposed to be thinking about the horrible drug war violence in Mexico City, instead.

And when I did focus on the drug violence, I found it uneasy and distasteful. And not just because it's violent, but because the violence was so beautifully shot. A couple of years ago I was talking with some friends who offered up Fernando Meirelles' CITY OF GOD as an "aesthetically immoral" movie. That no matter how well made it was, not matter how seriously it took the story, no matter how beautifully it was shot, it was essentially "poverty porn." In fact, making a beautiful movie about such a subject is what was offensive. At the time I defended CITY OF GOD with a weak, 'But I liked it!' and the fact is when I saw it (in it's release in 2002) I thought nothing of how its beauty might be improper, I was just grateful for what window it could provide into that world. But things have changed since 2002. At least, I have changed...but the world has, too--especially in terms of how we receive media of horrible, shocking scenes. In 2002 there was no Youtube (or similarly widespread  but less censored alternatives) to easily share shocking cellphone videos For that matter, there weren't that many video-equipped cellphones. The immediacy of such videos nowadays is so prevalent that news programs will show lo-fi, pixelated videos on a regular basis. And in such a world, seeing brutal violence in such a clear, controlled, well-lit, etc. manner just makes it obvious that it's staged and someone is presenting it to you as entertainment. And that's what I found distasteful about DAYS OF GRACE--it was morally ugly because it was so physically the point that by the end I felt a little dead inside.

Or maybe I'm overthinking it. Maybe it's supposed to be kind of an adventure, in the mold of a 1990's Hong Kong police action/drama/thriller. Or maybe I'm underthinking it. Maybe my distaste is exactly what I was supposed to feel and it's at least in part a commentary on the portrayal of violence in movies. Either way, I would have to watch it again to figure that out (along with the more mundane questions of the actual plot.) I just don't know if I'd be up to watching it again.

Total Running Time: 217 minutes
My Total Minutes: 316,571

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Jason goes to Indiefest--Day 12

Now we're into the final stretch. Two movies every night from now until Thursday.

First up on Monday was a short music video EVERY LITTLE THING YOU LOVE by the Bynars. Geeks are hassled by greaser jerks. Geek girl falls in love with an alien. Geeks get their revenge, with the help of a brain-melting gun they win by eating lots of Frosted Frogs. Yup, pretty fun.

And that was a perfect match for the feature, THE GHASTLY LOVE OF JOHNNY X, which I had seen at its world premiere at Cinequest. Let's see what I said back then:

Then I was over to the fabulous California Theatre for the world premiere of THE GHASTLY LOVE OF JOHNNY X. First a little pre-showgeeking out, seeing Will Keenan again (who I met at Indiefest with CHOP) and having him introduce me to Reggie Bannister (of the PHANTASM movies.) And then settle in for a rocking good time. Jonathan Xavier (Keenan, going nuts on screen as usual) is a rebel who just can't play by the rules, so the grand Inquisitor (Kevin McCarthy, in his final film role) sentences him to a horrible fate--banishment on Earth--only to return if Johnny can finally perform an unselfish act. There his gang of 1950's style juvenile delinquents become known as The Ghastly Ones. They terrorize the squares, all while singing and dancing (oh yeah, this is a musical.) And what else...he has a resurrection suit that lets him control the motion of anybody else. His Coca-Cola loving best girl has stolen the suit and ran out on him. Reggie Bannister shows up as a down on his luck concert promoter who needs a big hit from Mickey O'Flynn, the man with the grin (Creed Bratton, channeling a sort of demented undead Johnny Cash.) Oh, and Johnny's right hand man Sluggo has even ghastlier plans. And then somehow Paul Williams shows up as a midnight talk show host! This movie is an amazing ball of crazy showmanship, a ton of fun, and worth multiple viewings.
Yeah, that's all still true. And I discretely avoided the incident in the Q&A when Will allegedly jumped from the balcony of the California and broke both of his feet (since I heard them talking about it at last Friday's Q&A, I figure I'm allowed to at least mention that it happened--allegedly.) What I will add is that at Cinequest I saw it in a beautiful 35 mm print. The Indiefest audience last Friday also got to see the 35 mm print in the Big Roxie. But last night it was in the Little Roxie and although they can play 35 mm they didn't want to platter the film for just one screening (Big Roxie has a changeover system so it's easier to play 35 mm as a one-time event.) The fun of the story and the showmanship totally holds up to multiple viewings, and it didn't lose too much playing on Blu-Ray...on the little screen...that's kind of warped...and the projector has a dead pixel so there's that damned red dot in the lower-right quadrant of the screen!!! Okay, it was just so much better in 35 mm, here's hoping it gets some theatrical play on 35 mm in the Bay Area before its home video release (which should be around June.)

Then a change of pace to a very serious documentary INSIDE LARA ROXX. As a young 'wild child' Lara Roxx (her stage name, of course) moved from Montreal to Los Angeles for a career in porn. Within two months, she contracted HIV. This documentary takes the long view of her (ongoing) life, starting when she contracted HIV in 2004. At first her case becomes a sort of cause célèbre, with her appearing on Maury Povich and starting a foundation for education and protection of the performers. And it keeps following up on her year after year. It shows her returning to L.A. and confronting people in the industry (and showcasing either the callousness, duplicity, and/or willing blindness of those in the industry.) It shows her returning to Montreal, getting addicted to crack, and living in a squalid ghetto. And it shows her at least trying to pull herself together and go into drug treatment. It's sad and often frustrating to watch her making so many bad decisions (after all, the story starts with bad decisions.) But any temptation to lay all the blame at her feet are quickly stamped out by examples of people in the industry doing exactly that. The worst case is the de facto father figure Papa Bear who at first offers her a comforting hug but then goes off on how HIV is somehow both very rare in the industry and an expected hazard of the job and it's her fault that she "walked on razor blades and got cut." As she left his office in tears, I couldn't stop thinking 'You asshole! I don't care if the chances to getting HIV are a million to one, and neither does she. She already got HIV, so for her the statistics are 100%!' It's frustrating, but the fact is if we actually cared about the safety and well-being of porn stars, they wouldn't be doing porn in the first place.

Total Running Time: 197 minutes
My Total Minutes: 316,354

Monday, February 18, 2013

Jason goes to Indiefest--Day 11

Four more movies to fill out the big second weekend at Indiefest, starting with documentaries.

First up was BOUND BY FLESH, the story of the Hilton Sisters--the famous conjoined twins who at one time were the biggest act on vaudeville. I would want to say "highest paid" which they technically were...but they really didn't get to keep any of that. Their managers (and there were a series of them) were highly paid, and to the extent necessary took care of them, but the sisters Daisy and Violet weren't really paid. The movie is a pretty comprehensive look at their life, starting the mother who gave them up (Mary Hilton, whom their mother worked for, legally adopted them and started exploiting them in the back room of her bar while they were still infants.) They were joined by just a small strip of flesh and shared no organs, so today it would be a pretty minor procedure to separate them. But at the time nothing like that had ever been done so they grew up into pretty girls and young ladies, still conjoined. In fact, their drawing power wasn't just that they were "siamese" twins but that they were pretty and could sing and play music (at least were minimally talented, they trained to be performers their whole lives.) They starred in Tod Browning's classic FREAKS, although they didn't much like the movie or promoting it (they were vaudeville stars by that time, a step up from the circus or carnival midway freaks.) Eventually (and I'm getting the timeline confused here) they won a court case to be emancipated from their manager/legal guardian Meyer Meyers (Mrs. Hilton's son-in-law.) And when they were finally free to pursue their own life/career--well, be careful what you wish for. They had been so sheltered they didn't know how to deal with a series of shady managers. One of the most poignant parts is the last few years of their lives. After being abandoned by yet another shady manager at a drive-in near Charlotte, NC, they were taken in by the community and worked their first regular job in the produce section of the local grocery store. For maybe the first time in their life they had real friends, and that's where they passed away and are buried today. A really good movie about an unusual and sad life.

Then the second documentary of the day was FACELESS, a story of illegal immigration and 9/11. It takes the 9/11 attacks as it's starting point, and then traces the life of one victim--an undocumented worker in Windows on the World. It explores the drug violence in Mexico that makes it unlivable for the residents there. Even people who previously scoffed at the idea of moving to the U.S. now find that the only option. It explores the "coyotes" who take them across, the people who patrol the border (both professionals and volunteers), and the human rights activist who leaves jugs of water for them in the desert (without taking a stand on the legality issue, he just says nobody should ever have to die of thirst in the desert.) It explores the myth of the American Dream through the lens of an immigrant, and how there aren't as many opportunities as you'd expect in the land of opportunity. And finally, we get back to the beginning at the WTC on 9/11 and explores the issues of the undocumented immigrants who died there. Fascinating...and sad.

Then I saw the closing night film--although the festival doesn't actually end until Thursday--ALL THE LIGHT IN THE SKY directed by Joe Swanberg and co-written and starring Jane Adams (both of whom are scheduled to be at the Thursday night screening to end the festival. And beyond that, the Roxie is doing a weekend Joe Swanberg movies.) Jane plays Marie, an actress who is worried that she's too old to be getting more and more roles. Although I can attest that the opening scene--in which she changes into a wetsuit--shows she is still quite attractive. Even better, Sophia Takal plays her 20-something niece Faye who comes to visit and is an actor herself. They talk about life, work etc. They compare figures (that scene is very poignant and cinematic as well as just two beautiful naked ladies talking.) Faye Skypes with her boyfriend back in New York (Lawrence Levine, Sophia's real-life husband.) She goes out with some friends in a night that becomes more of a home-movie footage sequence, and there seems to be a bit of a one-night love triangle, even though she's attached to Larry back in New York (confession, since I met Sophia and Lawrence at Cinequest a few years back, I can't imagine them being with anyone else, even if they do so in many movies.) Meanwhile Marie has a few gentleman suitors but is very self-conscious about her age. She also has one of the worst walks-of-shame ever (Never forget your car keys. You'll just have to go back.) All the while there's a metaphor on impermanence going on about how her Malibu home will someday be washed into the sea and a guy teaching her about solar energy (if I recall correctly, as research for a role) and a metaphor about sustainable energy/sustainable relationships/sustainable lifestyles. But really, metaphor isn't nearly as interesting as the excellent, natural, beautifully unguarded acting.

And then I ended the night (and the weekend) with FUNERAL KINGS a dark comedy about kids. I would want to say a "coming of age" comedy, but it's really more of a satire on coming of age. A gang of 14 year old altar boys routinely get out of school in order to serve at funerals. In the opening scene, none of them can stand up and deliver the book to the priest because they've been staring at the same hottie bending over in a low-cut top. Yup, the movie opens with an adolescent boner in church joke, and that sets the tone for the rest of the proceedings. When they elder statesman of the group entrusts one of them with a trunk before he's sent of to juvy, well the mystery is just too great. And when they eventually open the trunk, they find a treasure trove of porn, booze, cigarettes, and a gun that will bring their shenanigans to a whole new level. Irreverent and ridiculous fun that celebrates the lawlessness and pain of being a teenage boy and getting away with way more shit than you should.

And that's it for the second weekend (and thank god I get President's Day off.) Everything has now had it's debut in the festival. Now it's 4 days of repeat screenings, which will give me a chance to see everything (almost.)

Total Running Time: 345 minutes
My Total Minutes: 316,157

Jason goes to Indiefest--Day 10

After catching the two shows at the Silent Winter, I was back at Indiefest for 5 more shows

First up was the shorts program Innocence Bursting. I.e., the coming-of-age shorts.
88 MILES TO MOSCOW: A girl tells her mother the story of riding the train home with her ex-con father. But through flashbacks we see what she lies about. I have to say, this film's trailer has played over and over again in the festival, and every time it bothered me when she tells about her father "doing a crossword puzzle" when in fact the image shows a word search. In context, with all the lying, it plays much better.
PARETO PRINCIPLE: Jon and Chris are poor kids working in a shitty restaurant. And then they find a bag of money in the trash. But should they turn it in? Will taking it get them in trouble with whoever owns it? And isn't that likely to be bad, bad men? The situation puts their friendship to the test in an ultimate "Mo' money, mo' problems" scenario.
WORLDS WE CREATED: Kids playing, fantasy worlds of the wild west, WWII, and the space race. But reality can't be avoided forever. It would make an excellent companion piece to I DECLARE WAR.
THE RUNNER: A 10 year-old boy rushes a bag of money to his mother to pay for her surgery. But how he got that money will have a direct impact on the situation, leading to a little semi-instant karma.
MY NAME IS YOUR FIRST LOVE: A little boy does gardening work for the 20-something lady next door, who seems likely to be a total slut. Ahh...the first awkward, doomed-to-failure crushes.

LOS AVIONS QUE SE CAEN (FALLING PLANES): Hugo is a Cuban kid who loves baseball and dreams of being a star. Stardom in Cuba will only get you so far, though. But he can't fly away because what if the plane falls?

And next up was more shorts, A Bouquet of Pleasures and Pain--shorts about love.
YOUR PLACE OR MINE: The right choice will determine if the relationship lasts forever or fails right away.
JOSEPHINE AND THE ROACH: You know your husband is awful when you'd rather do it with a roach. Notice how I conscientiously avoided making a "cock"-roach joke. I'm so freakin' mature!
SUBWAY SILK: Based on a poem by Dean Kostos, napping on the subway and the sound of silk in his dreams turns out to be two nylon backpacks rubbing against each other. But in the movie version, maybe there's still chance for romance.
PLEASE HANG UP AND TRY AGAIN: Bright lights and cellphone conversations about love, betrayal, and attempts for forgiveness. Beautiful and interesting, but the sound mix needs to be adjusted a bit to better understand the cell phone conversations. Too often it was drowned out by the music.
LOVE IN THERAPY: Older psychiatrist, younger man. Speaking of sound mix issues, the ending fireworks/music were so damn loud I nearly jumped out of my skin. Other than that, it was a fun idea. But age issues are simple--just calculate half the elder's age plus seven years to determine if the younger is above or below the 'too young' threshold. The fact that she didn't do that is proof (once again) that psychiatry is not a real science. Science can answer these questions easily and with no complications.
WINTER SHOWER: An octogenarian reunites with an old lover. Although I like to think that her lover has actually passed on and her journey is really her passing on as well, and their reunion is her version of heaven. Or not, maybe she literally goes on a trip to meet an old boyfriend.
VENA AMORIS: As if marriage isn't torture enough, the bachelor party when marrying a Russian mobster's daughter is really, really intense. But why all the darn singing? The gag worked pretty well, but then everyone sings for what seems like 10 more minutes. Very weird. You know, maybe he actually did die and he's secretly a fan of showtunes so that's his version of heaven.

Next up, an absolute treat--another contender for my 'reward for seeing everything'--THE STORY OF LUKE. Luke (Lou Taylor Pucci) is a young man with some form of autism--as his grandmother used to say he "defies medical classification." But his grandmother has passed away and his grandfather isn't doing too well, either. So he moves in with his aunt, uncle, and cousins--who are all shallow, horrible people who view him as a burden they just don't have time to deal with. But he's a man on a mission--on practically the last advice his grandfather gave him he wants to screw. But to do that he has to get a job, move out, and meet a nice girl with great tits. And so he sets out to do just that. And his quiet honesty is hilarious and disarming, changing the lives of everyone around him. Ultimately, the question of whether he'll get a job and/or a girlfriend isn't so important as how he makes everyone around him--his relatives, his co-workers (including a nastily acerbic Seth Green), even maybe his mother who abandoned him--better people.

And then I watched BLUE DREAM, by Gregory Hatanaka (MAD COWGIRL, UNTIL THE NIGHT.) James Duval plays Robert Harmon, a film critic who does a lot of drugs, has a lot of sex, and hurts a lot of people while witnessing the death of traditional media. Time and space are slippery, and it all feels like one big drug dream (it helps to know that Blue Dream is a type of marijuana. I had to Google that.) And maybe if I were high instead of just drunk, I could have gotten into it more. As it was, I can only say that my friend [name withheld to protect the barely innocent], who normally loves movies with lots of naked ladies in them, walked out because he was so bored. he really wanted to like the movie, but couldn't. I concur.

Then it was finally time for the midnight movie, starting with the short VENGEANCE DE LOS MUERTOS. Demolition derby, a burning paper skeleton, and more demolition derby as a son avenges his father's death.

And then...MANBORG, from the guys at Astron-6! Shot on video, extremely lo-fi, awful acting and cheesy green-screen effects. I.e., a ton of fun for a drunken midnight crowd! A soldier battles Count Draculon and his Nazis from Hell, is killed, and wakes up in a lab as Manborg! He teams up with #1 Man (the kung-fu master), Mina (a knife-wielding blue haired chick straight out of anime), Justice (Mina's brother...who is an Australian punk? Just go with it...) Lots of fighting...some of it even makes sense. And the jokes are exactly as stupid as the target audience. And I mean that as a compliment. I was kinda drunk so I don't remember precise examples, but several times I or a friend would lean in and say, 'and then they should do/say this...' and they did! This movie is why run-down neighborhood dive theaters must exist, and must be open at midnight. Because this movie just wouldn't work anywhere else. I can't imagine the hell that would be watching MANBORG at home, on DVD, alone,...and sober. Luckily I didn't have to do that.

And that was Indifest Saturday.

Total Running Time: 434 minutes
My Total Minutes: 315,812

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Jason goes to the Silent Winter and sees SNOW WHITE and some Buster Keaton shorts

Because when you're a true addict, one festival just isn't enough. I was up early on Saturday to catch a couple of shows at the Silent Winter event at the Castro, put on by the team that does the fantastic San Francisco Silent Film Festival in July. And special announcement, look for their presentation of The Hitchcock 9--Alfred Hitchcock's 9 silent films--at the Castro June 14-16.

Anyway, first up was SNOW WHITE (1916): As the legend goes, a 15 year-old Walt Disney saw this silent version of the Grimm Brothers' fairy tale and it influenced him to the point where he used it as the first animated feature film. Well, the story of Snow White goes back long before this, and if you're looking at it as a template for the Disney's not that obvious. This silent version has way more of the huntsman and the prince. The queen and the witch are still separate characters. The look, feel, characterization are all different. Maybe Disney loved the story, but he went back to the drawing board (literally) in making his version. But then...there are little things that show up. The dwarves washing up for dinner, for example. The helpful animals...which actually made me think of CINDERELLA even more than SNOW WHITE--but certainly Disney loved his adorable animal helpers. When Snow White is poisoned by the apple and is lying in her glass coffin--that image is from this movie (and re-used in SLEEPING BEAUTY.) So while the influence is maybe in smaller, subtler details instead of the big picture, the influence also goes well beyond just Disney's SNOW WHITE. Oh yeah, and as a film in and of itself, it was well made and a lot of fun--easy to see how it could be so influential.

And then I caught the program of Buster Keaton shorts. All movies I had seen before, but so much fun to see with a good audience that laughed heartily in all the right places.
ONE WEEK (1920): Buster is given a house as a wedding present--all he has to do is build it himself. Unfortunately, his spurned rival messes with the plans and he ends up with a bizarre monstrosity.

Now here was something that struck me. Remember the previous night I saw VIDEO DIARY OF A LOST GIRL and mentioned the influences there run from silent films through to something like THE FORBIDDEN ZONE. This flashed into my mind while watching ONE WEEK:
Check out the house from ONE WEEK:

Now look at the house from THE FORBIDDEN ZONE:

And finally, check this out from VIDEO DIARY OF A LOST GIRL:

Pretty interesting, isn't it?

THE SCARECROW (1920): Buster and his fellow farmhand (who live in a wonderfully inventive house. Eating breakfast is an adventure in and of itself) are both after the hand of the farmer's lovely daughter. Wacky hijinx ensue, eventually leading to Buster disguising himself as a scarecrow. And getting the girl--actually matrimony is the recurring theme in these shorts.

THE PLAYHOUSE (1921): It opens with a brilliant all-Buster vaudeville show--including an all-Buster audience (and it bears reminding that this was all done in camera--no CGI, no green screen. All these tricks were done in-camera.) Then Buster wakes up and he's just a stagehand backstage in the theater. But he does get his chance to shine when the monkey escapes and he fills in at the last minute. Pretty hilarious. And, of course, he gets the girl in the end but that's really just a side plot--the recurring gag is that there are twins and he's always grabbing the wrong one.

Total Running Time: 127 minutes
My Total Minutes: 315,378

Jason goes to Indiefest--Day 9

The big second weekend started last Friday with three shows, so here we go.

First up, GHOSTS WITH SHIT JOBS. "Ghosts" in this context is Chinese slang for white people--specifically indigenous North Americans. "Shit Jobs"--in the near future--could range anywhere from digital janitor (obscuring copyrighted logos from the online recreation of the entire world) to baby maker (roboticists who build/refurbish robot babies) to silk gatherers (collecting the silk left over from the giant spider--excuse me, "arachnoid"--infestation to be used as building materials) or even human spam (dropping the names of companies and products in everyday conversation.) The movie is framed as a Chinese television show, showcasing the dire conditions but proud spirit of the poor ghosts, and how their hard, dangerous work makes the luxurious Eastern lifestyle possible. The premise always teeters on the edge of being stretched too far, but it manages to hold together and makes for a solid piece of entertainment with some biting--if obvious--social commentary.

Also, I normally wouldn't comment on the budget just because I think those details tend to be pretty boring. But this was made for only $4,000, and still looks good. Looks amazing, in fact. Writer/co-director Jim Munroe was there and explained that they have made their monetary investment back and if you look at how much time everyone put into making this they've made about $1/hr so far. I predict that number will go up as more people find out about this and pay to see it.

Next up was SUN DON'T SHINE, a road movie/crime flick/recurring nightmare starring Kentucker Audley and Indiefest favorite Kate Lynn Shell (THE COLOR WHEEL, GREEN.) They're on a road trip/run from the law through Florida, with a body in their trunk. The story of the body in the trunk slowly unfolds as the movie morphs from a lovers-on-a-road-trip to something even more dark and sinister. Paranoia overpowers lust, and the road trip becomes a sort of descent into hell--which turns out to be St. Petersburg.

And then, after a beer or three, it was time for the midnight show, starting with the short THE FAMILY UNIT. A very strange picnic indeed.

And that--perfectly, somehow--led into the feature, VIDEO DIARY OF A LOST GIRL. As a fan of Louise Brooks, the title alone captured my attention (DIARY OF A LOST GIRL is one of Lulu's classics) and made this the movie I was most looking forward to in the entire festival. And it didn't disappoint, although it's a completely different world from the silent screen. Actually, it's a completely different world from anything, anywhere. Cinema references abound and run the gamut from silent (yes, Louise Brooks footage does appear) to THE FORBIDDEN ZONE (more on that in a later post.) I was kind of drunk watching this, but I suspect to truly understand it I would need to be absolutely stoned out of my mind. Allegedly there's a story in all this, but I was too busy marveling at the wild, trippy visuals and intentionally lo-fi look (it's meant to look like...a video diary. And an old-school one, using VHS, not a webcam) to really follow it. But I can say I totally loved it, and not just because there was a naked green chick on screen for most of the film (or at least, most of the film that I can remember.)

Total Running Time: 273 minutes
My Total Minutes: 315,251

Friday, February 15, 2013

Jason goes to Indiefest--Day 8

I hope you all had a good Valentine's Day (or as us single guys called it, "Thursday.") I, for one, spent it the same way I've spent it the same way for over a decade--by going to Indiefest and watching movies.

First up was the Super-Secret Sing-A-Long. That's right, they programmed a mystery film and wouldn't tell us what it was going to be. I mean, I tried to figure it out from the online program, but that gave very few clues. There's a brief description, but it's so generic it could refer to any of hundreds of musicals released in 1984 in which a young Artist drives a purple motorcycle through the streets of Minneapolis. I was completely befuddled. And what's with that picture? A lavender square with a minimalist depiction of a cloud and raindrops on it? I don't get it, is it...LAVENDER CLOUDBURST? LILAC PRECIPITATION? VIOLET WATER-FALLING-FROM-THE-SKY? What could it be?

Well, in any case I took a chance and saw it, and boy was that a lot of fun. But I can't tell you what it is. I know teasing you like this will make you PURPLE with rage, and I hate to RAIN on your paraded, but I just can't. It's the PRINCE-iple of the thing.

All right, that was amusing but in all seriousness this was the first time I saw this movie. I was 10 when it came out, and when I was old enough to see it nobody cared anymore. So I could see it with my cynical 38 year old eyes and not be influenced by the weight of having seen it first at an age when it would've been most in sync with my hormones. So I can say that objectively...this movie sucks. The acting is awful, the plot is dull, and the hero is a misogynist. The music is good, I guess, particularly as a soundtrack for that specific point in time. But the villain's music is better than the hero's. And as far as a sing-a-long, the music is much, much worse if you actually think about the lyrics. The only thing I really liked is how when they formed a slutty-looking girl band starring the female lead, they called it The [Female Lead's Name] Six--because there are three of them. That still makes me laugh. Heh, heh...boobs.

In all sincerity, I understand how watching this movie at the right age with the right hormones coursing through you would make you like it. But that is not an endorsement of the movie as much as it's a condemnation of teenage hormones. I don't care if those hormones are necessary for the continuation of our species, if they can turn otherwise reasonable people into fans of this movie, our species is not worth saving.

Anyway...then I skipped the big Love Bites 80's Power Ballad Sing-A-Long (I've participated several times before and it's a great party, but it just didn't fit into my see-everything schedule this year) to see THE INTERNATIONAL SIGN FOR CHOKING, directed by and starring Zach Weintraub (BUMMER SUMMER) and co-starring Sophia Takal (GABI ON THE ROOF IN JULY, GREEN, ALL THE LIGHT IN THE SKY.) Hey, I met both Zach and Sophia at Cinequest a few years ago, so watching this movie was kinda like watching my Cinequest buddies play around. And, according to producer Bradley Smith (who was incorrectly introduced as Bradley Cooper, which became a running joke of the night) that's where Zach and Sophia met, too, so my reaction is entirely appropriate. Anyway, Zach (his character's name is Josh, but screw it, I can't see him as anything but Zach) is in Argentina looking to make a movie (BTW, this was made in Buenos Aires.) Much of the time he spends cooped up in his hotel room with the most vibrant, colorful wallpaper imaginable. At one point, while mindlessly tapping on the wall, he gets a response from the other side and meets Sophia (character name Anna, but to me she's Sophia.) So they start hanging out. They wander Buenos Aires. They meet fellow Americans in a bar. I...kinda dozed off for a bit (sorry, I had a few beers before the movie.) I'm pretty sure at one point I woke up and they were making out...maybe more (which, because of my perspective I just wondered what her husband Lawrence Levine thought of that.) I was actually told by some trusted friends that I didn't miss much. I wish I liked it better. I wish I had stayed awake. But at the very least, it was the best movie I saw yesterday, and the other movie I saw was a "classic."

Total Running Time: 191 minutes
My Total Minutes: 314,979

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Jason goes to Indiefest--Day 7

Another day, another two shows.

First up, the shorts program An Animated World. Yay cartoons!
SHAVE IT: Super-colorful story of a monkey who shaves off all his hair and becomes a corporate executive...then a politician...then a clear-cutter of cities.
FOXED!: Creepy foxes have kidnapped a little girl, hidden her behind the mirror, and secretly replaced her.
RETROCOGNITION: An awesome collage of classic sitcom scenarios--especially the audio. Hilarious, although it runs a little too long (could've accomplished the same thing in about half the time.) Love the "close shave" joke, but that's just because I'm kinda sick.
LIBIDINIS: Umm...are those lovers ripping each other's skin off in a fit of passion? Yes, yes they are.
HERE TO FALL: A city falling apart, collapsing on itself, and one girl running through it chasing a signal from her father. Beautiful and confusing.
THE HOPPER: Violence in an urban neighborhood. Kids rob drug dealers, things go bad. The whimsy of claymation at odds with the darkness of the story.
SILENZIOSA-MENTE: Surrealism that teased me with a hint of a bunny but no big reveal. Instead with got dogs and cats debating, floating telephones, a redhead with a head full of birds,...and awesomeness.
THE MISSING KEY: In 1920's Venice, a young Japanese music student named Hero Wasabi competes for the Abacus Scroll against the pompous Count Telefino. Oh yeah, Hero is a phonograph player (his parents are wax cylinder players), Count Telefino is a telephone who hired a telegraph machine to sabotage the competition. Really the only "normal" thing in the movie is Hero's oboe-playing cat. Beautiful.

And then it was time for WRONG, by master of absurdity Quentin Dupieux (RUBBER.) As the clock flips from 7:59 to 7:60, Dolph Springer wakes up to find his dog Paul isn't there, which is very unlike him. So he goes searching for him, running into a jogging-obsessed/jogging-denier neighbor, a gardener who is worried about how his palm tree turned into a pine tree, a promiscuous pizza delivery girl, and Master Chang. Is finding his dog worth losing his mind? Of course it is! Doggies are awesome and nobody in this movie is using their sanity anyway. Hilarious.

Total Running Time: 186 minutes
My Total Minutes: 314,788

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Jason goes to Indiefest--Day 6

Two more programs last night (Tuesday) so let's jump right in. First up was the shorts program Defying the Limits. These were specifically the shorts that defy category and stretch the limits of cinema.
LA STORIA DI SONIA (SONIA'S STORY): A life story set to the trends in Italian cinema (and allegedly Italian political turmoil, but I know less about that.) As a little girl, Sonia interrupts a Sergio Leone style child standoff. As a young lady, she gets involved in a Eurocrime style showdown with the cops. And then her prison time is sort of giallo-inspired. And then it gets weird.
DATE SETTERS: A dialogue-free homage to the victims of doomsday cults.
THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN BRAIN: He makes his way through life paying for things with a tiny bit of his brain at a time, until he's left with nothing. I totally sympathize.
VIVE LE CAPITAL: Ruminations on money and greed, set to creepy-strange interpretive dance.
DEAFBLIND: A deaf-blind woman who senses Christ's presence. Or it's some other guy in her apartment.
THE GREAT GASTROMANCER: A ventriloquist and his dummy go up against a barking dance crew. Weird, funny, and kind of racist. Reminds me of me.

I have to say I haven't seen a lot of shorts in the festival yet (looking forward to the animated shorts tonight!) but I sure hope they get better. There have been a few good shorts, but in general the programs I've seen (this one and the Uncanny Shorts Past and Present) have come off pretentious as hell.

And the second show of the night was THE LAST ELVIS, a weird story of celebrity infatuation that would actually be an interesting companion piece with ANTIVIRAL (which was playing next door.) While ANTIVIRAL dealt with celebrity infatuation in general terms and in a physically disturbing way, THE LAST ELVIS is about a very specific celebrity infatuation in a psychologically disturbing way. Carlos Gutierrez (John McInerny, a real life Elvis tribute performer) tries desperately to be Elvis. He quits his dead-end factory job to devote himself full time to his nightly passion--impersonating Elvis in clubs. He calls his ex-wife Priscilla (not her real name) and named his daughter Lisa Marie. He wears the jumpsuit and gold-rimmed glasses, and sings a spot-on impersonation--although almost never of actual Elvis songs. I'm not sure if that was an artistic choice or if they just couldn't secure the rights to enough Elvis material, but there's something strange, fascinating, simultaneously off-putting and charming about hearing "Elvis" sing I Wish I Were in Dixie (among other odd song matches.) The highlight is his pilgrimage to Graceland, although...without giving too much away...I've heard from people that the security at Graceland is way too tight for him to get away with what he does.

Total Running Time: 176 minutes
My Total Minutes: 314,602

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Jason goes to Indiefest--Day 5

Now we settle in to the routine--two movies a night all week, then a big second weekend before the home stretch. Last night, I saw a couple of little gems.

First up, the documentary ICEBERG SLIM: PORTRAIT OF A PIMP. Judging by all the dapper dressed players in the audience, I and my front-row cohorts were probably the only people who didn't know about Iceberg Slim before the film. He was, as the title gives away, a pimp. More importantly, he was the author of  Pimp: The Story of My Life and other novels, essays, and short stories that revealed a raw, seedy world that previous books hadn't. But the man himself remained somewhat of a mystery, a blur of reality and fiction. He really was a pimp, his real name was Robert Beck but he went by the name Iceberg Slim. Legend has it when a stray bullet hit his hat and he didn't even flinch (because he was so high on cocaine) he earned that nickname. In any case, it's a great fuckin' name. Slim tells you he's a fit, good-looking, well-dressed guy. Iceberg tells you he's cool, and most of his reality is hidden. Anyway, he gave up pimping and started writing in his forties after a stint in prison. In fact, in his later years he would say that the only good that ever came of pimping was it sent him to jail and made him turn his life around. First time director Jorge Hinojosa, who has managed Ice-T for a long time, pulled on all his connections to interview celebrities (Ice-T, of course, but also Chris Rock, Snoop Dogg, Quincy Jones, Henry Rollins, Bishop Don Majic Juan, etc.)  Iceberg's family (his two ex-wives and his daughters) and various academics who expound on the merit and cultural impact of his writing. It's really a great job of putting together the whole life story of a fascinating man who led the life before he wrote the life.

And then I saw a kids movie about the horrors of war, I DECLARE WAR. This war is the game kids play after school, a kind of enhanced version of capture the flag with extra rules and water balloons full of red paint. Except in the kids' minds those balloons are hand grenades and the sticks they're carrying are guns. And that's a lot of the fun of the movie is to see kids running around on screen firing actual (prop) weapons at each other. The whole operation is run by PK, a genius strategist who is comically exasperated when his teammates don't know every historical war reference he makes. On the opposite side is the vindictive Skinner who kills his own general so he can capture and torture PK's best friend. Bad strategy, since taking a prisoner means you need a soldier to stay and guard him, and it's only five kids to a side. But exactly how far will PK go to win? Other side stories are deftly woven in, with young crushes (one girl actually joins the war!), loyalty, fantasy, and strategy. And it has an amazing cast of all-child actors, not a single adult ever appears on screen.

Total Running Time: 183 minutes
My Total Minutes: 314,426

Monday, February 11, 2013

Jason goes to Indiefest--Day 4

Four more movies last Sunday. But first, big thanks to my friend Ira (aka Walter Sobchak) for letting me crash in his hotel room Saturday night. I was not up for a two hour bus ride and half hour drive home. I must make it absolutely clear, there were two separate beds in the hotel--nothing weird happened (not that anyone asked.)

Plenty of weird things happened in the first film of the day, though. NOT IN TEL AVIV is a movie built almost entirely around psychotic shifts in mood. The type of movie where a recently laid-off teacher who kidnaps a student at gunpoint will tell her, "You were a really good student" to which she'll reply, "You were a really good teacher" before they drive away. (Spoiler, that's basically the opening scene of the movie.) It's the kind of movie where when said teacher takes said student to see her mother, said mother will punch the teacher before inviting him inside to meet their guests. I could go on, but I've already gotten spoiler-y enough (but not as much as the festival write-up, so I feel justified in that.) It defies convention...and logic, and makes a uniquely strange world of its own. It's appropriate that the title defines the movie in terms of where it's not, because trying to define where (or what) it is would kind of be impossible.

And then I saw a documentary on the world's most famous cephalopod, THE LIFE AND TIMES OF PAUL THE PSYCHIC OCTOPUS. Regular readers know that I'm a bit of a soccer fan, and have in fact traveled to the last two World Cup tournaments. And my fellow soccer fans will remember that in 2010 the biggest story in the World Cup other than the actual matches was the amazing prognosticating power of tentacled oracle from Germany, Paul the psychic octopus, who correctly predicted 8 out of 8 matches, including all of Germany's games and the final Spain over The Netherlands. For that alone, he should be remembered forever, but now we also have this playful documentary about it. Footage of Paul, animation, fan videos, interviews with experts--psychics, bookies, marine biologists, mathematicians (explicit Bayesian probability FTW!) The film goes off on numerous tangents, or tentacles if you will (and you will, even you don't want to I'll make sure you will.) But it's perfectly appropriate and what you kind of have to do to flesh out a movie about an octopus to feature length.

Then we went from a fun documentary that made me laugh and smile to a serious documentary that pissed me the fuck off (and it was supposed to.) THE REVISIONARIES is the story of the Texas state Board of Education and the fight over textbooks. I've followed this a little bit. I knew about the attacks on evolution. I knew a little (but not nearly enough) on their attacks on social studies, particularly American History (best line of the movie, when a board member proposes and amendment--in a section on the legacy of American music--to "delete hip-hop and replace it with country and western." The black member of the board has a bit of a problem with that.) The movie (starting with the title) makes it pretty clear what side of the issue the filmmakers are on, and the fact that they sit back and let the evangelicals hang themselves with their own words ("Someone has to stand up to the experts!") doesn't really make it unbiased. It just makes it biased in favor of truth and knowledge (you know, the stuff of schools) instead of faith and fairy tales (you know, the stuff of Sunday Schools.) The most frightening part isn't just the impact on textbooks (and as one of the biggest textbook purchasers, their choices often influence what is available in other states) but on how the young-earth creationist evangelicals think they're mainstream America. Actually, what's even scarier is they might be right.

And finally, I ended the night with SIMON KILLER, a disturbing and unpleasant film about a disturbing and unpleasant person. Simon is a recent graduate student, who did his thesis on the connection of the eye and the brain. But then, by the end we're left to wonder if anything he said about himself is true--maybe he's actually a French Literature major? In any case, he's in Paris now, after breaking up with his girlfriend of five years (assuming she exists.) And he's hooking up with new girls--mostly a prostitute named Victoria. And he's financing his life in Paris by blackmailing her clients (even though he has a "cousin"...or family friend he can crash with.) There are quite a few fairly explicit sex scenes, which end up just being as disturbing and unpleasant as he is. And that's before the disturbing climax. A good movie, but a nasty way to end the night.

And that was the end of the first weekend at Indiefest. I'm actually ready for the long week, big second weekend, and final stretch now. Hopefully some time in there I will A) find time to sleep, and B) start my plan for Cinequest.

Total Running Time: 367 minutes
My Total Minutes: 314,243

Jason goes to Indiefest--Day 3

The first marathon Saturday at Indiefest, 5 shows after getting home (to San Jose) sometime around 4 am. (note to self: get a hotel room in the city next weekend.)

First up was a program of Uncanny Shorts: Past and Present, experimental shorts and a conversation with Mary Helena Clark and Lynn Hershman. I will first confess that generally experimental works are not my cup of tea, but in an effort to see everything (or as close to everything as I can get) I embraced this program.

First up, a selection of shorts by Mary Helena Clark:
AND THE SUN FLOWERS: A close-up shot of her wallpaper, with digital alteration effects to make the static shot seem subtly, strangely alive. Also had a voice-over segment, but I've completely forgotten what the voice said.
SOUND OVER WATER: This time the effects and manipulation were inherently film-based instead of digital. Colors suggestive of (like the title) light dancing on water (if I recall the Q&A correctly, some of the original footage was actually birds in flight against the blue sky.) Ending with a series of still photos from a whale-watching trip. The photos (from a friend's first experience with a camera) were the inspiration for the piece.
BY FOOT-CANDLE LIGHT: This one I actually liked quite a bit, because it was a sort of exploration of the space and act of exhibiting work. I.e., it was about the act of being an audience. So it was kind of about me. And I like things that are about me.

And then Lynn Hershman's film DESIRE, INC made an interesting counterpoint. Back in the '80s, Hershman produced a series of ads featuring no product--just a sexy model inviting viewers to call in and respond. And she made this documentary showcasing the ads, some respondents, and commentary by herself (e.g., "Mass communication is masked communication) and others. A fascinating look at making mass media interactive, an experiment that maybe presaged (but would be redundant now in) the Internet/social media world.

The conversation afterwards was interesting, if a little film theory-geeky. Mostly talking about narrative and the nature of watching. Or, at least, that's mostly what I remember about it.

Next up, it was time to BE GOOD with this movie by and about a new father/indie filmmaker. Reversing traditional gender roles, Paul stays at home and tries to write his newest script while taking care of his 6-month old daughter Pearl. Meanwhile his wife Mary goes to work and actually supports the family. But there's never any talk of traditional gender roles, that's jut the subtext and it's immediately accepted that they're a modern couple who doesn't have to fill the roles. Of course, there are issues like Mary pumping her breast milk in the storage room (what, she can't do that in the bathroom? My only thought was maybe there wasn't a convenient power outlet in there.) Or there's the fact that Paul simply can't get much writing done during Pearl's (extremely  brief) naps. Or that Mary desperately misses time with her daughter, and how the whole situation is straining their relationship. Then there's the side plot of a guy who scams Paul out of $20 with a sob story, and Paul trying to hunt him down and confront him (including a rather traumatic point that was telegraphed a bit too much.) But mostly it's an interesting look at the life of two new parents that never gets too strident and weepy nor does it get into slapstick "Mr. Mom" territory. It's just sort of...working to make it to the next day...much like some new parents I've known.

Oh, and the most important part is that Pearl (played by director Todd Looby's real infant daughter) is totally adorable. As is their dog. Oh, and Joe Swanberg (director of the closing night film ALL THE LIGHT IN THE SKY and a Roxie series immediately after the festival) shows up as himself (and the example of a new father who continues to be a prolific filmmaker.)

So I didn't think about it at the time, but the theme of fatherhood actually plays into the next film, the Cronenbergian sci-fi horror flick ANTIVIRAL. In fact, more than Cronenbergian, it's a Cronenberg film--Brandon Cronenberg, an apple that didn't fall far from his father David ("Master of Venereal Horror") Cronenberg's tree. If I were David Cronenberg, I would pat Brandon on the head and say, "That's pretty good...for a first try." Of course, like most creators of sick and twisted art, David is probably in real life a really nice guy who loves his son and supports and encourages everything he does. It's just, as a fan I'd like to see how much sicker Brandon could get in trying to impress his dad. Because the fact is, he's already surpassed his father in sick weirdness his first feature.

In the near future, celebrity worship has gotten so intense that people go to clinics to get infected with diseases that celebrities have had (not just disease, mind you, but the germs/viruses grown directly from the ones that infected the celebrity.) Or, they'd go to the shops to buy slabs of meat grown from celebrities' muscle cells. Kind of cannibalism...but the meat is just grown in big trays, it's not like actually cutting a steak from the flesh of a person. And it's what the people want. Syd March works at a clinic that has an exclusive deal with superstar Hannah Geist. He also smuggles diseases out of the clinic (by infecting himself) and sells them on the black market. One problem, the latest bug that Hannah caught and he has infected himself killing her. And it will soon kill him, too. And so he enters an even weirder world of corporate espionage to find the source of the disease and (hopefully) the cure. If this was played for a joke, the joke would've gotten old well before the film was even halfway through. But because it's played so seriously, it ends up just getting sicker and sicker all the way through to the absolutely sublimely repulsive ending. Awesome!

And then for a little horror that was played for laughs. SIGHTSEERS is the latest from Ben Wheatley, whose dark comedy DOWN TERRACE and dark not-at-all-comedy KILL LIST played in previous Indiefests. He's back in comedy form now with this romantic comedy road movie. Tina is dating a new man, Chris, and they decide to go off on holiday to visit England's numerous tourist destination (e.g., historic tramways, parks, etc.) And then he kills a guy just for littering. And she's a bit shocked, but after some thought...she likes it. So they go on a bizarre spree of vengeance against minuscule slights. But disagreements over who deserves punishment might just wreck their little utopia. Funny and bloody, and I absolutely loved the ending.

And then, for the 10th year in a row Indiefest hosted their Big Lebowski party. This time it moved from CellSpace to the more intimate venue of 518 Valencia. So they had to pare down some of the bigger pieces--no trampoline, no swing. But plenty of White Russians and people in costume. I say this nearly every year, but it always amazes me how much effort people put into celebrating a movie about a slacker. If you try that hard, you're very un-dude. Really, the most dude thing you could do is skip the party, skip the movie, stay home, drink, smoke pot, and eventually go bowling. But who cares about being dude when there's a party and a movie?

Around about midnight the party moved into the Roxie for the costume contest, and finally a screening of a gorgeous new 35 mm print of the film itself, THE BIG LEBOWSKI. I've seen it many times. Even seen it on the big screen many times. Heck, I was one of the few people who saw it in its initial release back in 1998. But seeing it last Saturday night, with an enthusiastic audience cheering all their favorite lines was just magical. If you're a "true" cinephile who insists people shut the fuck up (Donny!) and just watch the damn movie, this was not the event for you. But if you were full of white russians (Or oat sodas. Or a combination of I was) it was a night to just have a blast.

And that was the first Saturday at Indiefest 2013.

Total Running Time: 443 minutes
My Total Minutes: 313,876

Jason goes to Indiefest--Day 2

Three movies last Friday night, as Indiefest gets in full swing

First up was this wonderful Sardinian oddity, THE LEGEND OF KASPAR HAUSER. It's kind of important to know the true story of Kaspar Hauser, otherwise you'll just be lost in the weirdness. Even with a brief and very informative introduction by festival programmer Kier-La Janisse I still get lost in the weirdness, and I loved it. It's shot in Italy, but set in place X, time Y, and opens with a shot of UFO's flying overhead. Vincent Gallo practically hijacks the movie with his dual roles as a rockstar-sheriff and drug pusher. Kaspar Hauser (played by Silvia Calderoni in a bit of gender-bending casting.) And it's powered by an overbearing and fittingly inappropriate electronic music soundtrack. Time means nothing, place means nothing, gender means nothing, everything you see and hear is a lie, and yet the Legend is still true. You know, every year I designate one film as my "reward for seeing everything"--the movie I had no idea what to expect going in and ended up loving. It's never happened before, but maybe this year I found my reward for seeing everything in my second screening.

Not to be outdone, the next film was also from Italy, also very weird, and also brilliant. BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO stars Toby Jones as Gilderoy an English sound mixer brought in by eccentric Italian director Santini to work his magic on his film. He didn't know what to expect, but discovers that he's actually working on a horror film...check that, it's not a horror film, it's a Santini film! Or, to be specific about the genre, it's a giallo--that particular style of Italian horror thriller, with it's distinct style, look, and (especially important for this film) sound. And as Gilderoy starts working on the film as a fish out of water (both as an Englishman living and working in Italy and as a non-horror fan working in horror) life starts imitating art. He's browbeaten by the heavy-handed producer and soon the line between his work and his life starts blurring. But this doesn't exactly go where you'd expect a horror film to go. Sometimes it's tedious and pointless to dissect genre, and this might be a case of that. But I think it's useful to point out that while it's steeped in giallo style, it doesn't fall into the easy thriller cliches. There isn't a sinister killer/monster stalking him. It's more of a character study--one man isolated with his thoughts, immersed in his work until that's all there is.

And finally, I ended the night with an old (1972) super-sleazy exploitation flick, TOYS ARE NOT FOR CHILDREN (part of programmer Kier-La's spotlight on her new book, HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN.) Jamie (Marcia Forbes) is a young lady with an absentee father whom her mother denigrates as worthless scum who spends all his time with whores. All she gets from him is regular gifts of toys, which she idolizes and fetishizes while dreaming about her father. Seriously, in the opening scene she's fucking a toy solider that was a present from him. And it gets weirder and sleazier from there. A loveless marriage, a friendship with a prostitute named Pearl, and an ingenious plan to become a prostitute herself in order to find her father. Nobody really gets away clean in this movie...including the audience. A great way to end the night.

Total Running Time: 271 minutes
My Total Minutes: 313,433

Friday, February 8, 2013

Jason goes to Indiefest--Opening Night

It's the 15th annual SF Indiefest, and they're calling it their Quinceañera celebration.

I don't mean to be nitpicky or to inject math into the celebration, but technically the start of the 15th annual festival means it has only been around 14 years. It started in 1999. In 2000--one year after the founding festival--they held the 2nd Indiefest. The third Indiefest was in 2001--2 years after the first festival. Most importantly, in 2002 they had the 4th Indiefest, and the first one I attended. So as far as I'm concerned, we should start counting from there. Happy 11 years since I started attending Indiefest! (making this my 12th one)

In any case, everybody gets this wrong (a couple of years ago when Cinequest held it's 21st festival, they claimed they were finally old enough to drink. I pointed out A: not really, and B: that never stopped them before.) And I'd rather party than do math, so happy Quinceañera, Indiefest!

The festival opened with Michel Gondry's new film, THE WE AND THE I. At first it seems like kind of a departure for Gondry (ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP) as he puts aside his magic realism and goes for an intimate, improvised look at the lives of high school kids on the bus. But there are, in their own ways, flashes of his magic and sense of humor in there. Kids hurry excitedly out of school, grab their cell phones from the local convenience store (a friend of mine explained that in NY cell phones are banned from school, so the kids will pay a couple of bucks for the local corner store to hold onto their phones so they can get them as soon as their out of school. Interesting phenomenon.) They get on the bus, and they immediately start acting like kids. I.e., assholes (or victims of assholes.) This is the "WE" part of the title. Mob mentality, bullies, showing off for friends. The "I" comes later, as we get more revealing glimpses into the characters. But the WE was unpleasant enough for me to hate the I before I ever met it. I'm sorry, but I know I have a bit of a block when it comes to kids being jerks. I think it's understandable, as I was (still am) a nerd whose last name is a slang term for penis. I don't need to be reminded of how awful high school kids are. And if I am reminded, I am unlikely to later sympathize with them in any way. I could tell it was an interesting, well made project. And many times the entire audience (including myself) laughed. And everybody else seemed to have more enlightening things to say about the movie. But my only takeaway was that kids are awful, awful human beings.

And then I stuck around for the party. Had a little beer, talked to a few friends, marveled at the huge crowd there (I'm sure ~80% of them I won't see again in the festival.) Watched the band play for a while. Had another beer. And eventually they ran out of beer, so I decided my work there was done (even though there was still wine and liquor there. But it's a long festival and I gotta pace myself.) So I headed back to BART and eventually home. Apparently if I had stayed a little longer I could've seen Barry Zito play guitar.

By the way, there was also a last minute addition to the festival, a one time only screening of FACES IN THE MIRROR. I had seen everything that played at Indiefest since my first year--even in years when that was impossible. But this year...Indiefest just isn't set up that way. This is the first either/or decision I've had to make in my festival schedule, but it won't be my last. A bit of an end-of-an-era for me. I won't quite be able to definitively say what the best film in the festival was this year. And I can't claim to be "the guy who sees everything at Indiefest" anymore (but at least no one else can, either.) And, for the record, a friend whose opinions on movies I trust reasonably well told me I made the right choice.

Running Time: 103 minutes
My Total Minutes: 313,162

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Jason goes to Noir City--Day 9

Last Saturday at Noir City was Cornell Woolrich day and heavy drinking night. In fact, I'm just coming down from my hangover now. Gotta write this up before Indiefest starts.

STREET OF CHANCE (1942): A man (Burgess Meredith, young enough that he has dark hair!) gets knocked on the head by a falling beam. He's okay, he even knows who he is. Frank Thompson, office man and loyal husband. What he doesn't know is what he was doing in that part of town and why his hat and cigarette case are monogrammed DN. Well, it's a classic canard--the amnesia plot--but one of the first times it was ever used. Turns out a little over a year ago he lost his memory and became Danny Nearing. And now Danny Nearing is wanted for murder, but he doesn't know anything about it. A kinda wacky, twisty plot that was lots of fun (even if I guessed the ending in advance.) It even features an old, bedridden grandmother (Adeline De Walt Reynolds) who communicates by blinking her eyes!

THE CHASE (1946): Ex-navy man Chuck Scott (Robert Cumming) is so honest, when he finds a wallet on the ground he just takes a couple of bucks to pay for breakfast (he's really hungry) and returns it to the owner, even promising to make up the money he took somehow. Turns out, the owner is Eddie Roman (Steve Cochran,) a local gangster who decides he really likes Chuck and will make him his new chauffeur. His henchman (the always great Peter Lorre) doesn't like it one bit. But his wife Lorna (Michele Morgan) likes it just fine. Not only is Chuck handsome, but he might just be her ticket out of Miami--all the way to Havana. The middle part gets really weird (SPOILER ALERT: it all turns out to be a dream sequence) but the ending is pretty cool. And it features a crazy car with a gas pedal in the back so Eddie can control the speed while the driver just concentrates on steering.

THE WINDOW (1949): And finally, I ended the film-watching portion of the day with this Boy-who-cried-wolf story starring little Bobby Driscoll. He plays Tommy Woodry, who is constantly getting himself and his family in trouble with his tall tales (they almost lose their apartment when he tells his friends their moving to a ranch in Texas.) But when he actually witnesses a murder while sleeping on the fire escape, nobody believes him (shades of REAR WINDOW, also from a Cornell Woolrich story.) Wacky hijinx ensue, featuring Arthur Kennedy and Barbara Hale as Tommy's parents. Paul Stewart and Ruth Roman as the neighbors from hell. And an exciting finale in a condemned building. 

Then I had a filling, leisurely dinner, knowing I was about to pollute my stomach (and blood stream) with massive quantities of alcohol, because it was time for the Noir City Nightclub. What a party! Awesome people, music (including Erin Brazil and the Brazillionaires with their "Hitchcock Suite"), performances (including international burlesque star Evie Lovelle), and lots and lots of alcohol. I learned pretty quickly which bartender made the best (i.e., strongest) bourbon and soda. And the night was off!

I skipped Noir City Sunday to nurse my hangover and watch the Super Bowl, thereby creating a new hangover. Monday was kind of hellish. And here we are now.

Total Running Time: 233 minutes
My Total Minutes: 313,059